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Court turns down waterway's request for quick appeal

LAMAR COUNTY — The Mississippi Supreme Court has denied a request by the Pat Harrison Waterway District to expedite its appeal to determine whether Lamar County must still pay for operation of nine waterparks regardless of its decision to leave the district.

The Hattiesburg American reports both sides still expect the appeal to be heard in 2014. The Supreme Court has 270 days from the filing of all of the briefs to render its decision.

At issue is about $18.6 million. The waterway district argues Lamar County has a contractual obligation to maintain the nine waterparks in the Pat Harrison system “into perpetuity.” PHWD filed its notice of appeal on Sept. 9.

Chancery Judge Hollis McGehee ruled in favor of Lamar County in an August ruling.

Lamar County argued its financial obligation to the waterway district ended when supervisors voted 3-1 on Sept. 6, 2011 to leave the district.

The Supreme Court’s decision could decide the obligations of two other counties — Jasper and Forrest — that have voted in the past few weeks to severe their association with the district.

Curtis Gray Sr., Jasper County Board of Supervisors president, said the one mill dedicated to membership in the water district would be worth about $168,000 for the 2013-14 fiscal year.

Jasper County, which pays about $186,000 annually for membership, voted to leave on Sept. 9. Forrest County, which had averaged about $460,000 in membership fees over the past four years, voted to leave on Sept. 14.

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